Could Texting Person Be Just as Liable as Texting Driver?
Buffalo, NY (WBEN/AP) A New Jersey court recently ruled a person who knowingly sends a text to a driver can share liability if the driver causes an accident. The court did, however, throw out a lawsuit against a teen who texted her boyfriend, which contributed to a harrowing crash.
Last Tuesday's ruling came in the case of a couple severely injured when their motorcycle was hit by a teenager who was texting while driving in 2009. The injured couple settled their lawsuit against the driver for $500,000. They also sued his girlfriend, who sent him a text message. The appeals court says someone who texts a motorist can potentially be liable if the sender knew the recipient would view the text while driving.
"The first time I saw that story, the first word that came out of my mouth was wow," says attorney Steve Boyd, who has dealt with cases involving texting drivers.
In the New Jersey lawsuit, the judges upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit against the girlfriend. The court says the couple didn't show evidence that the girl knew her boyfriend was driving or would look at her text. Boyd says such proof will not be easy to find. "If my wife sends me to the store to buy milk, for example, and I leave the house and 30 seconds later she texts me again and says by the way we need eggs, she knows I'm driving. But does she know I'm likely to read the text while I'm driving? That's the tougher test and that will be tough to prove," explains Boyd. "It's already very hard to say we can prove someone who received a text was reading it at the time of the accident. Now, you take that and mulitply it because now, you not only have to prove that, but you have to prove the person sending the text would know the driver would read it."
Boyd believes the proof would likely come from the receiving driver. "If the driver is the one offering the proof the texting person knew I was driving, and knew I was likely to read the text, that could be the evidence to keep the texter in the case," believes Boyd.
In the end, Boyd says it's "100 percent up to the driver" to ignore the text until he gets to his destination.